In June 2007, Seal Press published Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina. Showcasing self-actualization, body image, and beauty perception among Latina woman in a United States very different from their families’ native cultures, Hijas Americanas provides a provocative account of the inner struggles and triumpls of Latin-American women as we are forced to reconcile two realities: that beauty, identity, and womanhood within our homes are largely defined by our ethnic culture and parents’ upbringings, while beauty, identity, and womanhood outside our homes are defined by American culture- often presenting us with two very different stanards. The book features the voices of hundreds of women who grew up in the United States and navigated issues of gender, image, and sexuality. This empathetic ethnogrpahy offers a protrait of the young Latina experience, detailing how growing up American and Latina Affects who one becomes and how she gets there.
Reaching out to a growing “new majority,” author Rosie Molinary highlights what it means to be a Latina
Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina
by Rosie Molinary
For many women who identify as Latina, the question of what it means to be a part of this group is complex. Like other women, they struggle with common coming-of-age themes like body image, sexuality, and self-identity. But unlike the others, they must do it within not one — but two — cultures, the United States and their familial homelands.
In Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina (Seal Press / June 2007 / $15.95), author Rosie Molinary sheds new light on what it means to be a Latina growing up in the US. The book is based on interviews and surveys Molinary collected from more than 500 Latinas of Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, and South American decent. Survey questions examined topics that are uniquely female, as well as Latina, including body image, standards of beauty, sexuality, and ethnic identity.
Data collected from the survey found:
- 81.4 percent of Latina women are satisfied with their beauty, but only 39.1 percent are satisfied with their weight
- 74.2 percent have dieted
- 86.8 percent believe attractive women are more valued in society
- 25.6 percent say that print, television, and film media have most influenced their perception of feminine beauty
- 4.7 percent have had plastic surgery
In Hijas Americanas, Molinary — a first-generation Latina born to Puerto Rican parents — provides a powerful understanding of the inner conflicts and triumphs of first, second, and third generation Latinas. The book, and the captivating stories of the women featured, gives an empowering voice to the struggles and successes of all women across racial, sexual, and cultural identities. Hijas Americanas emphasizes that the challenges of growing up the product of two cultures can ultimately have a positive impact on Latinas’ lives.
News & Reviews
Growing up in two cultures, children are usually the ones “who bring America home” while their parents “just want the guest to go away.” [Molinary’s] lively, honest narrative captures the immigrant conflicts of trying to fit in at home and feeling a stranger outside. She combines her personal experience with commentary drawn from more than 80 Latinas she interviewed and more than 500 who answered her Web-based questionnaire. They talk frankly about prejudice, family tensions, body image, skin color, sexuality, faith, media, language, social norms, and much more. Throughout, the young women are candid about ignorance from all sides, and they are fiercely critical both of the stereotype that Latinas are all “Mexican and illegal” and of the exotic, sexy roles Latinas play on television. Rooted in clear details, the strong, upbeat message celebrates the traditional and the contemporary sides of today’s Latinas. Teen girls, and not just Latinas, will grab this for the honest talk of coming of age.
—Hazel Rochman, Booklist
Hijas Americanas gives voice to the many influences that go into making strong, talented, beautiful Latina women. Its broad-based approach includes Latinas of all stripes, races, ethnicities, who have made different choices about what balance to strike between their two cultures. Rosie Molinary contributes to a much-needed conversation about what defines us as a community as well as what challenges us as individuals. The book sends an affirmative message that is bound to resonate with Latinas and with women of all backgrounds and ages.
—Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and Saving the World
This is an important and authentic contribution to the quest for identity and meaning of us Latinas. Rosie Molinary has written a powerful and meaningful book that candidly explores the many stereotypes associated with growing up Latina and the quest to accept this vital identity.
—Marjorie Agosin, Professor, Wellesley College
Hijas Americanas canvases the diversity of the American Latina experience– from children of immigrants to those of us who can’t speak a lick of Spanish—frankly and compassionately. Molinary’s subjects were candid and generous, sharing the most intimate details of their experiences. As I moved through the quick-paced chapters, I was stunned by how many times I thought, “that happened to me, too!”
—Michelle Herrera Mulligan, co-editor of Border-Line Personalities
Hijas Americanas is a bicultural ethnography of the challenges and triumphs of Latina women who have been forced to merge the conflicting realities of a culture where being treated as a credible individual often requires as much beauty as brains.
Latina Style Magazine, Spring 2007
Trust us. You’ll relate to Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina as much as you relate to Latina. Well, okay, almost as much. Author Rosie Molinary incorporates interviews with 500 Latinas and her own experience coming of age as a bicultural chica into an engaging, un-textbooklike look at our issues with body image, beauty and ethnic identity.
Latina Magazine, June/ July 2007
Composing a book that draws from her experiences as a Latino woman in America as well as hundreds of other women throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, author Rosie Molinary explores the age old debate of what it means to be beautiful in Hijas Americanas. Opening with a personal reconciliation of her image issues, Hijas Americanas recognizes, “women’s experiences will vary and the one truism across all grounds is that you owe yourself the time and energy of figuring out what is right for you. Like a candid conversation, Hijas Americanas redefines beauty, allowing readers to understand it is never solely skin deep. Beauty embraces inner spirit and changes perceptions. Hijas Americanas also addresses beauty views from the Latino male standpoint and discusses the relationship pressure of having to be a good girl in life and a bad girl in bed. Instead of harnessing issues of cultural identity, beauty standards and sexuality defined by near-impossible media generated ideals and deep-rooted cultural stereotypes, Hijas Americanas becomes the potent voice that enables women to celebrate themselves.
Urbano Latino Magazine, Issue # 74